Fstoppers Reviews the Hasselblad X1D II

Fstoppers Reviews the Hasselblad X1D II

For those of you who haven't heard of Hasselblad, they were one of the first cameras used to shoot from space and are known today to be one of the top medium format companies around. With a recent release of their X1D II and a unique digital back for their v-system, what is it like to shoot with one of these cameras?

A few months ago, I had the opportunity to try out the Hasselblad X1D for a review. After trying that camera out for the first time, I was happy with my first Hasselblad experience. Everything from the feel of the camera to the image quality it produced really had me feeling good about what I was shooting. In a way, when I shoot with a Hasselblad, I feel like I am shooting on a film camera... and that's what makes me love this camera so much.

Feel and Interface

The Hasselblad X1D II is made of some pretty sturdy material, even its aluminum lens hood will make you feel like you are holding some sort of beast. The simple design of this camera makes it really easy to understand and use, while the touch screen interface makes it extremely easy to navigate the menus and adjust the settings. In fact, the touch screen on this camera is literally as good as the touch screen on a smartphone, very responsive and accurate.

The X1D II was designed to be an overall upgrade from the X1D. Some of the new features include a brighter, more vivid 3.6" 1024x768 touchscreen versus the previous 3" 640x480 touchscreen, an improved OLED electronic view finder (EVF), 46% speedier boot-up time and access to the menu while using the EVF. Though these upgrades may not look so great in text, they do make a pretty big difference when it comes to shooting with this camera. 

Autofocus

The autofocus was also slightly improved but the X1D II is only okay compared to faster cameras like the Sony a7 line. However, Hasselblad isn't really built to focus quick, it's more of a camera you take the time to shoot with. That being said, when I was out shooting, I used the autofocus a lot and it worked very well for the most part until it was in lower light. Once it was a bit darker, I noticed a little trouble with the autofocus speed but ended up switching it to manual focus and having some fun.

Quality

With a 50mp medium format sensor, quality might as well become your middle name, at least when you are holding this camera. Compared to my Sony a7R III with a 42mp full frame sensor, the Hasselblad does have many advantages when it comes to quality. One of those advantages being sensor size alone. With a sensor 4x the size of a 35mm (full frame), photos from the Hasselblad can be enlarged significantly without losing quality. You also get better tonality (color gradations) and more detail due to the sensor size.

Low Light

This was a test for the X1D II in the sense that a medium format camera may take a higher quality image, but it is not as versatile as something like the Sony a7 lineup. For low light photography with the Hasselblad, I would recommend being on a tripod to get the shots you want. The darker it is, the harder it is to autofocus and the more you have to adjust your ISO and other settings which may add noise to the image. I was able to take this camera out for a sunrise shoot and capture some images of the NYC skyline. The camera performed very well while it was on a tripod and taking 20-90 second exposures.

One of my favorite parts about the X1D II compared to my Sony a7R III is that you can set the amount of time you'd like to shoot for rather than setting it to "BULB," you can just scroll to the desired amount of time you want to have the shutter open for. This comes in handy for those long exposure photographers out there because you don't always need a remote, app, or timer to get the shot you want. 

When shooting on this camera, you do have to pay attention to your exposure. One of my ways around this was to be sure the exposure meter was fairly balanced before capturing my image. It may look good and bright in the viewfinder, but you can over expose or under expose if you aren't paying enough attention. Again, with the quality of the sensor and editing capabilities, it isn't the biggest deal but I always prefer to get the image to look as best as I can with a single exposure.

NYC Skyline Full

NYC Skyline Full

NYC Skyline Cropped

NYC Skyline Cropped

What I Liked

- Feel, look and build quality

- Image quality

- Ability to edit

What I didn't Like

- Autofocus speed

- Weight

Conclusion

While this ended up being a very fun camera to shoot with, I wouldn't recommend this camera for the average joe who is just starting up with photography. This is certainly a camera for a special someone who likes to have quality on their side. While the X1D II may not be as versatile as other full frame sensors, it really isn't meant to compete. This camera has a certain feel to it that makes you think and focus more on the stills you are shooting while providing you with the quality of a medium format.

Coming in at a price point of $5750, it stacks up fairly well against Fujifilm's GFX50 line. I personally think the Hasselblad has a better look to it, it is more modern than vintage. That being said, I think both brands have a good product and it really comes down to what the photographer is looking for.

What do you think of the Hasselblad X1D II? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

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19 Comments

Mr Blah's picture

"With a sensor 4x the size of a 35mm (full frame), photos from the Hasselblad can be enlarged significantly without losing quality."

46 vs 50pmx should have similar enlargement capability. What does the MF has that lets it enlarge bigger? Where does it find the data?

Matt Williams's picture

First, it isn't 4x the size, it's not even twice the size. It's about 70% larger than 35mm.

As for enlargement... yes, pixel count is roughly equal and so any enlargement to a certain dpi or ppi would be similar. The Hasselblad would have better *pixel level quality* - i.e. cleaner, better pixels at 100%. This could be helpful for very large or high density enlargements.

Keith Meinhold's picture

The fine details are much cleaner and distinct from a larger sensor. As someone who often has create clipping masks of fine detail for advertising, smartphone images are unusable for because the lines a much less defined. I would imagine the larger the sensor the clearer the image. Some may be to do with the optics.

Eivind Rohne's picture

How can a 33x44mm sensor be 4x the size of a 24x36mm.....?

Rhonald Rose's picture

It's not, it's just 70% bigger than the FF counterpart

Eivind Rohne's picture

I know that, but I wonder why the writer of the article says it is..... ;)

Robert Montgomery's picture

Um check your math. As a medium format film shooter a 4X 35mm sensor size would put it in between 6X6 and 6x7 sizes in MF. And as of now there isn't one that size. The closest true medium format sensors by size are in Hasselblad H6 and Phase One's that run approx $50,000..00/body. Even these sensors are smaller than 6x4,5cm which is the smallest current used size in Medium Format . I am not going to wade into the is it medium format debate. I choose film, it's up to you to decide what you want .

Robert Montgomery's picture

Have to pay attention to your exposure??? Whats next lens hoods, using it frontwards or backwards. --Am done. --

Dana Goldstein's picture

When an article begins with, “For those of you who haven’t heard of Hasselblad...” it’s not going to go anywhere worthwhile.

Robert Montgomery's picture

Sometimes a slapwitch is in order along with calmly say "just put it down". I was waiting for him to comment on them having lenses with Carl Zeiss written on them. My two 500CM's are weeping listening to Sara McLaughlin now.....

Rhonald Rose's picture

Actually there are photographers (pro) who haven't heard about gfx or hassey or phase one. Met some of them in the past year.

Dana Goldstein's picture

Here’s the thing: if someone has even the least familiarity with the history of photography, they should know about Hassy. The others, not necessarily. I’m very much about people learning from the work of the classics as well as today.

Rhonald Rose's picture

Nope, these are the new generation photographers and they make money out of photography. In fact, I had to explain the different formats (aps-c, full frame, medium format, large format).

Dana Goldstein's picture

Yikes! You must be a very patient man! 😳

Dana Goldstein's picture

Anyone remember when fstoppers had articles for serious photographers, by serious photographers?

David Pavlich's picture

While the body price is competitive with the Fuji GFX50s, the lens prices aren't even close. It would be one thing if Fuji lenses weren't great, but, in fact, they are really good. Fuji wins on this account.

Robert Montgomery's picture

From the sidelines shooting MF film. Both fuji and hassy can get the job done with results . Both are mirrorless. Which one is the larger battery hog. Something to throw in the mix while pondering pixel counts ,etc,etc.

barry cash's picture

B L A C K O U T #1 RED FLAG you forgot to mention...did you look thru the EVF? Not usable for my shooting.
BA T T E R Y LIFE #2 RED FLAG did you shoot enough? Plugged in or lots of
R O L L I N G SHUTTER #3 RED FLAG might be the worst ever? That takes video users out of the picture.

I think if your considering reviewing you should put the thing thru its paces.
If your on the fence about buying one you know up front that the Hasselblad X1Dii is beautiful like a poison apple, you want it, you want to hold it, you tell yourself Hasselblad will fix some issues, you know yourself you are full of it and when you buy it you will suffer with the three things mentioned above.
You take some nice images, not of anything moving, blowing, shaking or in low light and the best clean file you get is ISO 800 ????? maybe 1200 but for sure the wall is 1600. It is a good camera with fine (some exceptionable lenses) but with the T E A M behind the engineering F U H G E D D A B O U D I T.

Robert Montgomery's picture

I don't think anyone has ever bought a Hasselblad to shoot videos.